Winter storms not to be treated lightly

Posted 12/14/22

It’s like someone – well, I suppose you could say, Mother Nature – flipped a switch.

Late Sunday afternoon, just as Tony Petrarca forecasted Thursday, the first flakes of the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Winter storms not to be treated lightly


It’s like someone – well, I suppose you could say, Mother Nature – flipped a switch.

Late Sunday afternoon, just as Tony Petrarca forecasted Thursday, the first flakes of the 2022-23 winter flew in a brisk Northeast wind. I could feel the bite and so did Ollie who wasted no time to perform and rebound to the porch knowing he would get a few squares of kibble. It’s amazing how he’s made the connection – do a pee and you get a treat as long as it’s outside. He no longer dawdles when we take him out before heading to bed; we no longer stand there watching him sniff every inch of his pen. Zip, zip and he’s in the kitchen anxious for his reward.

But I digress. Tony said we wouldn’t get but a dusting and he was right only we face the northeast. A four-inch drift, hardly worthy of being called a drift, covered our back porch. The rest of the yard was bare except for lines of snow – more midget drifts – extended from tree trunks and bushes. This felt like winter I said to myself, shoveling the fluffy snow from the porch.

It’s remarkable how quickly mindsets change. Just a week ago cleaning up the rest of the leaves was on the schedule. Now a pile of leaves, a leaf drift because the wind deposited them, sat in the walkway. I pushed the shovel around them. They not longer were top of mind. It was a clear path to the car that was important.

Another drift came to mind.

Riding the season’s first major snow storm with David Picozzi become a ritual when he worked in the highway department. Dave and former Mayor Scott Avedisian crisscrossed the city in a SUV checking on the status of clearing the roads and calling dispatch with reports of vehicles that had skidded off the road, downed branches and wires and what roads crews had missed. I sat in the back taking notes or hoping out to snap photos when he stopped. Dave couldn’t help venting when he found snow blowers and those with shovels pushing the snow back into the streets. It made for colorful quotes.

During one nasty storm, I pulled up to the highway garage to get a report. Avedisian wasn’t there nor was the SUV with its tasty heating. The floor was wet from the snow that had been tracked it. A box with a half eaten donut was perched on a counter. The place smelled of burned coffee. The crackle of welding torches came from the garage were crews hastened to repair banged up plows.  Men looked tired.  They had been on the job for more than 12 hours. Picozzi was checking things out. He spotted me. 

“Ready?” he said gesturing to the door. I had what I needed, a camera and a notebook although that would be useless outside.  We climbed into a pickup with a plow. Picozzi was going to help cleanup if needed. Our first stop was on one of those roads between Main Avenue and West Shore Road not far from where they intersect. A large limb was blocking the road. Two men with chain saws were doing their best to clear it in the driving snow. This couldn’t be easy. I was glad to be in the cab snapping shots from an open window.

The situation was under control. We moved on to check the drifting on Main Avenue at the end of the runway, known for requiring multiple plow passes. Picozzi had a front end loader on standby if it was too much for the plows. For the moment it was good. The roads were devoid of cars. It had to be nearly midnight. We headed for Apponaug to check on other notoriously tough spots including Diamond Hill and Cowesett Roads.

As we approached the four corners, the radio came to life. The voices were tense and words spilled out. We were listening to fire alarm. A house fire had just been reported on Arnold’s Neck, but the responding engine had not been able to get up the unplowed road. Now it looked to be struck.

Picozzi radioed his position. He could be there in minutes. It seemed more like seconds given the speed we went. The scene was hard to make out in the swirling snow and smoke. Dark forms of parked vehicles appeared and disappeared. Where was the road? Were we on it? We couldn’t see the house. The driving snow and smoke reflected in the headlights. We had to be close and we were clearly down wind of the fire. I got out to find the road. The plan was for Picozzi to follow me. We went 10 feet before he flashed for me to get out of the way. His truck disappeared. He was opening the opposite end of the road.

The smoke was heavy and it was difficult breathing. I moved in the direction we had come, soon finding fresh air and shortly after Picozzi and the firefighters.

Sunday’s dusting was just that, not even enough for city plows. But it switched on the memories of storms and the reminder that while global warming may have resulted in milder winters they can be full of surprises. Be careful.  

Side up, snow


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here